Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on March 25, 2009

MMO community connection:

Chapter 1: Introduction

What is your name (your online persona/alter-ego, what have you)?

Jennifer. I don’t have a consistent online name, so I prefer to use my given name. Some people refer to me by my blog title, Girl IRL.

What is your connection to the gaming/blogging/podcasting community (your chance to plug yourself here)?

I write Girl Unplugged. I am a lifelong gamer, albeit casually.

Please take a minute and describe what your blog/podcast is about.

Girl Unplugged is a general entertainment blog. My posts will focus primarily on games, movies, television, and books, though other topics might creep in. Having determined that writing about one MMO (like my old WAR blog) or one entertainment genre (games) is too limited, I started Girl Unplugged as a way to continue blogging without being confined to a single topic.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Where do you live now?

I still reside in San Antonio, although I spent a three year period living in Austin, Texas.

Your level (age) is somewhere in the range of (pick one): 10-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90


What do you do for a living?

I am currently unemployed, although I fancy myself a “writer” and am a college student.

If you could reroll your career, what would you be?

I’m currently pursuing a degree in English, but if I could reroll that decision I would consider something like animal science.

List five random things most people don’t know about you.

  • I have severe social anxiety.
  • I used to be afraid of elevators and am still uncomfortable when riding in them.
  • When I was a kid, I loved country music. I even met a number of country artists, because my Dad worked at a country music radio station.
  • I once submitted one of my older brother’s poems to my middle school literary magazine, passing it off as my own. I wanted to be just like him.
  • I have missed out on many “significant” movies. A few of the films I have yet to see include: The Matrix, Ghostbusters, The Godfather, Blade Runner, Pulp Fiction.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

The family I live with includes my boyfriend of nearly six years and my two year old dog. I have a large extended family, though: mother, stepfather, father, stepmother, older brother, stepbrother, stepsister, five uncles, two aunts, countless cousins, and three out of four grandparents. I also have a five year old sister who is technically my cousin but was adopted by my mother.

Chapter 2: Origins

What kind of games (if any) did you play as a child before you got into video gaming? Did you play with family, friends or was it more of a solo activity?

I loved to play board games, and “house” – a general term for playing pretend. My family didn’t really enjoy playing, though, so I hardly ever got to play board games as often as I wanted to.

What other hobbies and/or activities did you have as a child (sports, music, etc)?

I didn’t have any other hobbies when I was 10 and under, because my family couldn’t afford club sports or musical instruments and the like. In middle school I joined the academic UIL team, and when I was 11 I joined a Masonic youth group that I belonged to for nine years.

Were you ever exposed to pen and paper role playing games? What was that experience like?

I briefly played pen-and-paper games, though it wasn’t as a child. One game was Exalted, in which I only played one story arc. Later on I played Scion, attempting to take on the role of story teller. It didn’t go so well, as my social anxiety rendered me nearly incapable of reading through my prepared script. I have since concluded that I am not good at improvisation or role playing.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

I didn’t read very much as a child, which is odd considering the affection I have for reading as an adult. When I did read, I remember it was mostly biographies in elementary school: Dolly Madison, Anne Frank, etc. I also liked Roald Dahl a lot, The Witches and Matilda were my favorites.

Would you say that any of these games or books had an effect on your later appreciation of computer gaming and ultimately MMOs? Please explain.

I don’t think they did. My appreciation for gaming and MMOs today stems from my enjoyment of video games as a child…but I guess I’ll expand on that in the next section.

How were you fist introduced to video games? How old were you? What was the platform?

My older brother had a Nintendo on which I occasionally played Duck Hunt. I was probably 5 or 6 at the time. Later on we got a Super Nintendo and we played a lot of Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat, and Super Mario Brothers. I loved playing video games because they offered me a chance to spend time with my older brother, whom I always looked up to and wanted to emulate. He often beat me mercilessly in Mario Kart and other games, being 5 years older and more naturally skilled, but I still loved playing with him.

Did you ever play coin-op games at the arcade? What was that experience like?

I think I played some Pac-Man, and I remember a Simpsons arcade game at a movie theatre we used to go to as kids, but I was never much of an arcade fan. When we went to pizza places and other locations that had arcade games, I preferred to play skee ball if it was available.

What was the first video game you can remember playing that really made an impression on you? Please explain.

I recall Mortal Kombat very vividly. I loved playing Mileena or Kitana, because they were beautiful and just as tough as their male counterparts. Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 4 was the first game I actually bought for myself and didn’t just share with my brother or my friends. That was probably the day I became a real “gamer”, even if sports games are looked down on by some people in the gaming community. I say “real” because games became a hobby of my own at that point, not just something I did socially with my family or my peers.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

I didn’t own a console of my own until four years ago when I inherited my dad’s PS2.

Feel free to share a story related to your gaming experience as a child.

When I played battle mode in Mario Kart as a child, I would sometimes play Luigi instead of Princess Peach (my usual choice). When I did this, and when I did something particularly evil to the other NPCs or to my brother, I would shout out “Ha, a loogie!” in a sort of sing-song voice. I didn’t know what “loogie” meant at the time, I guess it must have been my alternative pronunciation of Luigi’s name. Either way, I very vividly remember doing this almost constantly.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I never played MUDs.

What was your first MMO experience?

I played City of Heroes for roughly a month or so in the summer of 2004. I enjoyed the experience, particularly the character creation, but it didn’t really hook me. Once I stopped playing (I was a freshman in college that year so I didn’t have much leisure time), I didn’t start up with another MMO for almost a year.

If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively.

Since my first CoX experience was so brief, I’m going to list it later, at the point where I started playing more extensively.

  • World of Warcraft, Spring 2005 – Fall 2008 (with many long periods away from the game in between). Last characters played: 70 NE hunter, 70 undead mage
  • Age of Conan, Summer 2008. Played a Priest of Mitra to level 30 or so.
  • Warhammer Online, Fall 2008 – Spring 2009. Played a Rank 40 Sorceress.
  • City of Heroes, Spring 2009 – present. Currently playing a lot of different characters while I try out all the archetypes, but my highest is a level 36 empathy/dark defender.

What is your current MMO of choice, or perhaps, what are your current MMOs of choice?

City of Heroes is the only MMO I am currently playing.

Which MMO have you spent the most time playing? How long would you say that has been?

I definitely played WoW the longest, probably a year or two years in total (the three year time line I mentioned above, minus the time I spent away from the game).

Have you reached level cap in any MMO? If so, which ones?

I reached the level cap in WoW a couple of times – three 60’s when that was max, then two 70’s when the cap was raised – and once in WAR.

Loki taps you on the shoulder one day to inform you that you have fallen victim to one of his elaborate pranks. The world you’ve been inhabiting of countless MMOs to choose from and play has merely been a dream. In reality only one MMO exists. After laughing at you for a bit he decides to take pity on you and allows you to choose which MMO will remain. Which one would you choose and why?

I would want to choose facets from various MMOs and combine them into one, but since that wasn’t the question…I’d have to pick WoW. I don’t have any intentions to go back to that game in the near future, but if I had no other options I’d enjoy returning. It’s endless “endgame” cycle and daily quest rotation means I’ll never run out of stuff to do, especially if Blizz keeps releasing expansion packs.

There are certainly things I DON’T like about WoW (obviously, since I’m no longer playing), but there’s enough content there that, should I have to choose among all the MMOs available for one I’d have to play forever, WoW would satisfy me.

Are there any MMOs currently in development that you are particularly interested in? Please explain.

I suppose I’m somewhat interested in Champions Online, but I won’t play it until they offer a free trial. Otherwise, no, I’m not following any MMO releases.

Feel free to share an interesting or amusing anecdote related to your MMO gaming experience.

Playing MMOs with my boyfriend is certainly amusing and interesting. He has an uncanny habit for finding game mechanics he can take advantage of and then riding them as long as he can. I remember in the early days of our WoW careers (back when you were rich if you had 50 gold), savory deviate delight, a consumable that can transform your character into a ninja or pirate or – at that time – buff or debuff you randomly, was a rare item. When he discovered how much he could make by selling the item, he spent hours and hours fishing for deviate fish in a particular pond and sold them on the auction house, netting us tons of gold. He had a similar experience with netherweave cloth. The cloth could be purchased cheaply on the auction house, turned into bandages, and sold to a vendor for a small profit (between 50s and 2g, depending). He did this repeatedly until he had made well over 200g from the practice. The man’s a regular snake oil salesman, I tell you.

Chapter 4: Preferences

At your peak, how much time per week would you say you spent gaming? How about now?

It’s difficult to say. I spent so much time gaming at the height of my experience that I basically lost track of time. When I was raiding full time in WoW…I’d say I probably spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours a week gaming. Now it’s much reduced, more like 10-20 hours.

When during the week are your regular play times?

I’m currently taking a leave of absence from college and work, so I can play pretty much whenever I want. Typically, though, I only play when my boyfriend is home, meaning in the evenings after dinner and on his two days off a week (which rotate).

Generally speaking, are you more of a social creature in MMOs (grouping to quest, joining guilds, etc.) or something of a lone wolf?

I play with my boyfriend most of the time, so I obviously am somewhat social. I’d say I tend to be somewhat of a loner when I’m not playing with him, though. Playing with him makes large groups and guilds tolerable. When I’m alone, I can’t stand being a part of a big group.

Have you made any lasting friendships through your MMO experience? Please explain.

I met a lot of people through my blog, which was focused specifically on Warhammer Online. As far as in game, though, most of my friendships ended when the gaming ended, like friends within guilds. I loved the members of my WoW alliance guild, but I didn’t keep in touch once I stopped playing. I did make one friend in WoW, a Dwarf Hunter from Arkansas (that sounds odd!), and kept a friendship with him outside the game for a while. Ultimately we didn’t keep in touch for very long after we stopped playing, but we exchanged e-mails for a brief time.

Before logging into a game, do you already have a course of action planned out in your head, or do you just sort of do whatever you feel like once in game?

Sometimes I’ll go in with a plan, if I have business to take care of: managing auctions, checking mail, etc. Sometimes Boyfriend and I will log on with a specific course of action in mind, such as playing a specific character duo or doing PvP over PvE. When I log on alone, though, and am not taking care of business, I am more apt to go with the flow once I’m in the game.

When playing MMOs do you tend to just play one at a time or do you take more of the smorgasbord approach?

I definitely prefer to play one at a time, and, with the exception of a month of subbing to both CoX and WAR, I usually do.

Do you tend to supplement your MMO gaming with other PC, console or tabletop games?

Not typically. Occasionally I’ll play a round of Team Fortress 2, or play a flash game, but mostly my non-MMO entertainment time is reserved for reading, writing, and watching TV/movies.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Not usually. I tend to try to get to max level with the first character I make. In CoX I’m more of an altoholic, especially now that leveling has been made easier with the AE farm missions.

Do you find yourself multitasking while gaming (perhaps watching TV, talking on the phone, out of game instant messaging, playing another game, or even listening to a podcast)?

I rarely multitask while gaming. I can listen to music, and sing along, but otherwise I need to focus my full attention on the game. If I have to, I can talk to someone on the phone, but I’m either paying much less attention to the game or paying little attention to the caller.

Do you find yourself having much MMO discussion off-line, perhaps with friends or family?

I talk to my boyfriend about MMOs a lot. In fact, I’d say about half of our chats deal with MMO discussion, whether it’s dreaming up new game designs or discussing our current gaming habits. I talk about it some with friends who used to play WoW with us, but we’re all playing different games now so it’s hard keep track. Sometimes I’ll mention the games to my mother, but that’s not something I’d call a “discussion,” more of an explanation of what I’m doing.

Have you ever felt that you game too much? If so, how did you cope with that?

Oh, definitely. It’s very easy for me to get “addicted” to gaming. My usual solution is to devise “game-free” nights. I reason that, if I can make it through a night without gaming, I’m good.

Since you started playing MMOs, have you ever taken a break from the genre? If so, please explain.

I took breaks from WoW and played no other MMOs, and took a break from MMOs between WoW and AoC and between AoC and WAR. The breaks from WoW were due to burnout. The break between AoC and WAR was because there weren’t any MMOs I really wanted to play at the time.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

I started blogging in late January of this year. Since then, I’ve shut down my original blog and begun blogging under a new name, widening my focus from just Warhammer Online to entertainment in general.

Why do you blog?

I enjoy writing and I enjoy getting to share my opinion with other people. It’s a great ego boost to see other people reading your stuff and commenting on it (or linking to it, which can be even more ego-inflating!). When I was blogging at Girl IRL, there was also a feeling that perhaps the Warhammer game designers were reading my posts, which made me feel like I could potentially have an impact on the game.

Do you have a schedule or some sort of routine you try and follow when blogging?

Initially I tried to stick with about three posts a week, but these days I’m having trouble posting more than once a week. So long as I stick with that schedule, one weekly post or more, I’m content.

Is there some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you cope with it?

There was definitely a grind when I was part of the Warhammer blogging community. I felt like I had to read all the WAR blogs to make sure I wasn’t writing on the same topic as someone else. I had to follow WAR news so my blog was up-to-date, had to play the game more often than normal so I had more inspiration. When I joined the WAR Community Promotion Initiative, started by Warhammer Alliance, it became even more of a grind as I had to link to other members weekly. I’m a perfectionist, so I never felt happy just leaving a link, I felt as though I needed to write a full description of the blog, so that added a lot of work.

My way of coping with it was eventually to just stop blogging in that community. Now that I’m blogging at Girl Unplugged, I don’t feel a grind at all. When it does start to feel “grindy,” that’s when I know it’s time to take a break or quit.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

As I said previously, I love when others read, comment, or link to my posts. It’s nice to know that there are people consistently reading what I’m writing; that they think what I have to say is valuable enough to subscribe to my blog.

At times it can be cathartic, such as one of my first posts at Girl Unplugged in which I complained about the hubbub surrounding my WAR blog name. I felt like I was getting a lot of criticism about it from the community, so it was nice to have the opportunity to vent.

There are also certain things I can blog about that my family or friends might not understand. It’s hard to tell my mother (whom I speak to almost every day) that I’m pissed off because something terrible happened in a game, but I can post about it and get instant feedback and consolation from others who have experienced the same thing.

How many people offline know you blog or podcast?

My boyfriend knows, as does my mother. I believe my brother and my mother-in-law know about it as well, as they follow me on Twitter and I post links to blog updates there. One or two offline friends know as well, for miscellaneous reasons. So about 5 or 6.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to try their hand at blogging?

Make sure you really like what you’re discussing, that it’s something you’re passionate about and not just a fad. Avoid being overly critical about the subject, or else you’re going to get burnt out and wonder why you were playing that game/watching that show/whatever in the first place.

Finally, whenever and wherever you come up with a post idea – in the shower, at dinner, in the car – write it down immediately! I’ve had terrible mornings where I remembered that I had an idea, but I didn’t write it down so I couldn’t remember what it was. That’s just the worst, especially when you’re behind schedule.

What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started?

I wish I’d had the foresight to recognize that I couldn’t blog about WAR forever. If I had known that, perhaps I wouldn’t have taken a WAR specific domain name that limited me from writing about other topics when I eventually was no longer interested in the game.

Can you picture a future where you will hang up your keyboard and no longer blog?

I think it’s possible. At the moment I’m taking a big break from my regular life – no school, no job, etc. – so I have a lot of free time on my hands. And yet I still only blog once a week! So when I resume my normal activities, I think it’s very likely that blogging will become much less of a priority to me, enough so that I stop blogging altogether.

I’m a writer at heart, though, so even if I stop blogging I’ll probably still be writing and may even revisit blogging after an extended break. You never know!

At your funeral, what song(s) would you have played as your corpse is set alight and cast out to sea on a funeral barge?

I don’t think about what’s going to happen at my funeral. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have one as I’d live forever and never die. The only song lists that I think about are what songs I’ll have played at my wedding! I don’t know, I guess if I had to pick right now, off the top of my head, I’d say, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. I’ve always loved that song. Who doesn’t?

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